The Easter after my daughter’s second birthday, I mindlessly followed all of the same rituals as my parents and grandparents. We made sugar cookies, sent cards, and of course decorated eggs. Shortly after returning from Church on Easter morning, we took her on an egg hunt in the backyard. After collecting the eggs and locating a strategically placed basket full of treats she looked up and asked me who had hidden all of the eggs. I looked into her big blue eyes and did as all of my ancestors have done: I lied. I told her the Easter bunny was responsible for the basket and eggs. Without batting an eye, she patted me on the bottom and said, “Thank you Easter bunny”.
This is where I broke from tradition. I realized that I could not remember a time when I believed in the Easter bunny, Santa or fairies. However, I clearly remember all the work my parents went to to convince me, against my better judgement, that Santa and company were real. I decided that I would not try to convince Patricia that her perception of the situation was wrong. Instead I gave her a kiss and told her she was welcome and continued with the festivities.
In early December of that same year, Patricia came up and asked, “Who is Santa?” I responded with a mom’s secret weapon. I answered her question with a question: “Who do you think Santa is?”
“Well, I think that it is probably Daddy since you are the Easter Bunny”. Then she added, “But I think Mrs. Clause does all the work”. I did not argue with her reasoning or her obvious discernment of the situation! The interesting thing to me was that Patricia did not seem at all disappointed with her conclusion. It had been drilled into me that children were supposed to believe in the Easter bunny and Santa, but her knowledge did not seem to minimize the holiday fun for her at all.
A month before Patricia lost her first tooth, my step-mom sent a tooth fairy box. It turned out to be a fortuitous gift. Losing a tooth was a very traumatic experience for Patricia. She cried excessively. Everyone tried to comfort her including her younger brother. Finally through all the tears she explained, “I’m not crying because it hurts. I’m crying because…because…because…I don’t want to grow up and losing teeth means I’m growing up”. My son threw his arms around her and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll always love you, even when you are a grown up”.
I was thankful for my son because I had no idea how to respond. I couldn’t wait to grow up. Unsure what else to do, I fell back on the tooth fairy. I found the box and explained how the system worked. This had the desired effect! She said, “You mean all I have to do is put my tooth under my pillow and when I wake up there will be quarters in its place? Cool! Can I go show my friends my tooth?”
Patricia didn’t ask who the tooth fairy was and I wondered if she knew. A couple weeks later, my husband was on a business trip and he called and thanked me for the pictures I put in his suitcase. I told him that I didn’t put them there and called Patricia to the phone. My husband asked her who put the cute pictures in his suitcase and Patricia replied, “I don’t know, maybe it was the picture fairy”.
Just as we used the tooth fairy to make Patricia feel better about losing her tooth, she used the picture fairy to make my husband feel better about having to be away from home. As young as she was, Patricia understood the concept more fully than I ever could have imagined. I don’t think that the magic of the holidays is in any way diminished by allowing children to be active participants. They derive as much joy from playing the Easter bunny, Santa, and fairy as we do. In fact, we have found that encouraging our children to volunteer during the holidays and play Santa or bunny to children in need or the elderly is a sure guarantee to increase their enjoyment of the holidays.